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With Casting News, We Get One Step Closer to The Confessions of Frannie Langton Adapation

For fans of true crime and gothic horror.

Cover of Sara Collin's book "The Confessions of Frannie Langton." Pattern made of books under.

When Jamaican-born Caymanian-British author Sara Collins shared that she was writing a screenplay for her 2019 debut novel The Confessions of Frannie Langton, I was elated.

I remember finishing the novel at 3AM and wondering why I was surprised that it ended the way it told me in the first chapter. This is something I hadn’t experienced since reading A Series of Unfortunate Events way back in middle school, except Collins’ bestselling novel was much, much heavier.

Told from the perspective of an imprisoned Frannie Langton, it recounts the events that led up to putting her on trial for the murder of the Benhams. The Madame and her “scientist” husband were found murdered in their bed, with Frannie, covered in their blood, lying next to the Madame.

As a Black woman on trial for the murder of a wealthy, esteemed white couple in 1826 London, her fate is sealed. The press has already painted her as the “murdering mulatress,” but Frannie is determined to make sure her story, and some of its secrets, gets told in full by her.

True to its gothic roots, the macabre recounting features both physical and psychological torment. In addition to intimate central plot, there are also forces Frannie interacts with who seek to prove scientific racism in a world where chattel slavery is on the decline and moving out of public favor.

With filming starting Monday in Yorkshire, the U.K.’s ITV is finally releasing the cast list. Karla-Simone Spence (Blue Story and Wannabe) is portraying Frannie. The Madame is being played by Sophie Cookson (The Kingsman series) and, her husband, George Benham, is being played by Stephen Campbell Moore (Downton Abbey). Additionally, the main cast includes William Pettigrew as Pettigrew, Patrick Martins as Laddie, and Steven Mackintosh as John Langton.

In a tweet teasing the performers who will play young Frannie and young Laddie, Collins revealed that we will definitely be getting scenes set in Jamaica.

This is not just important because this is where Frannie is born. The island plantation is where Frannie began her apprenticeship at a young age under a vile, Mengele-like “scientist”—a servitude that would lead to her traveling to London and under the Benham’s roof.

Cover of Sara Collin's book "The Confessions of Frannie Langton."

(Image: Penguin Random House.)

Growing up on Jane Austen novels, Collins knew she wanted to be a writer. The child of immigrants, Collins went into the more financially stable route of law and was a lawyer for 17 years before writing her novel. Practicing law turned out to be pretty helpful considering the centuries of medical records, academic papers, journals, and court documents she read in creating her novel.

In the novel’s “Author’s Notes” section, Collins writes,

Frances Barber was a young Jamaican boy brought to London in the 18th Century and sent into service in the household of Samuel Johnson. Johnson wrote that he’d been ‘given’ me by a friend.’ The idea of being given in England where all men were supposed to be free was the springboard for this novel.

Director Andrea Harkin, the cast, and the crew have the enormous task of relaying Frannie’s story, not just because it is a book adaptation, but because the power of telling one’s own story is so imperative to the text. Much of what was recorded of the actual Black people—be they enslaved, formerly enslaved, and/or migrants—has been the account of those in power.

With the screenplay adapted by Collins herself and how excited she has been to share what little she can, I think the story is in good hands.

Unless Covid-19 has other plans, many (myself included) think that this period drama will release in late 2022 or early 2023.

(via Twitter, featured image: Penguin Random House.)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. Starting as an Online Editor for her college paper in October 2017, Alyssa began writing for the first time within two months of working in the newsroom. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3. Still trying to beat Saxon Farm on RCT 3 (so I can 100% the game.)